Category Archives

10 Articles

Factors Influencing Jury Decision-Making

6.1.8 – Factors influencing jury decision-making, including characteristics of the defendant and pre-trial publicity, including studies in this area.

Twelve adults serve on the jury for a criminal case. They must follow strict rules to ensure that the case is handled fairly. The judge relies on them to make the decision.

There are a number of factors which have been shown to affect jury decision-making.



The way in which the case is portrayed in the media can affect the court process. This could lead to perceptions, which are hard to change after the fact, being formed about the defendant or other parties involved.

Steblay et al (1999) – Jurors exposed to negative pretrial publicit more likely to find defendant guilty.


Jurors are expected to understand technical legal information. This can affect the trial.
Foster Lee et al (1993) – Giving instructions to jury before, instead of after presenting them with technical information increased their ability to focus on relevant information to the trial. Instructions let them filter out irrelevent information and make sense of the evidence.
Leverett and Kovera (2003) – jururs find it difficult to know what scientific data is inaccurate.
Severance and Loftus (1982) – when the jurors are explained legal terminology, the tend to understand the ones they’ve heard before and not new ones.

During the Trial

Defendant characteristics


White jurors in mock trials demonstrate negative bias to black defendants during sentence decisions.
More black defendents are found guilty than white.
Pfeifer and Ogloff (1991) found that white university students were more likely to rate black defendants
as more guilty than white defendants.
Eberhardt et al – The more stereotypically black a defendant appears, the more likely they are to receive the death penalty.


Generally the more attractive the defendent, the more likely they are to receive a non-guilty verdict. The one exception to this is crimes in which they may have used their good looks to their advantage, such as fraud, sees more attractive defendants more likely to be found guilty.
Michelini and Snodgrass (1980) – Attractive defendants were more likely to be acquitted.
Sigall and Ostrove (1975) – Attractiveness affected length of sentence which pp’s felt was appropriate. For crimes such as fraud, she was sentenced to longer when there was a picture, whereas burglary led to shorter sentences. Not generalisable to real trials because jurors don’t choose how long the sentence is.


Dixon and Mahoney – Birmingham accent seen as more guilty. Repeated and found same results.

Expert Witness Testimony

Despite warning jurors about inaccuracy of EWT, they tend to believe it anyway.
Cutler et al (1989) – use of simple language by the expert witness led to more guilty verdicts. Language can influence jury decision-making.

Story Models

The order in which the story is told can effect jury decision-making.
Pennington and Hastie (1990)  – Easy to understand order increases guilty verdicts.



When an individual gives up their personal views due to group pressure.
Normative conformity  – To avoid rejection by the group.
Informational conformity – They don’t know and look to the group for guidance.

Asch (1951) – Most influential group size to gain conformity was 7:1.

Minority Influence

One person or a small minority can influence the majority’s opinion.

Moscovici(1976) – If they’re consistent, committed to their opinions, acting on principle (not self-gain) and not unreasonable, they can influence the majority.

Social Loafing

Reduction in individual effort in a group task. Unmotivated individuals may leave the decision to the group,

Foreperson Influence

The person who is selected to deliver the verdict to the judge may influence the group as they are seen as a leader and therefore their opinion may be more valued.

Factors Influencing Eye-Witness Testimony (EWT)

6.1.7 – Factors influencing eye-witness testimony, including consideration of reliability (including post-event information and weapon focus).

Stress (Arousal)

Yerkes-Dodson Law

Yerkes-Dodson Law


When witnessing a crime, eye-witnesses are often under a lot of stress. The Yerkes-Dodson Law (1908) states that we reach an optimal point of stress in terms of recalling information. No stress means we won’t remember well, but too much stress will have the same effect. Often when witnessing a crime, we are under too much stress which reduces recall.


(+) Valentine and Mesout (2009)
(-) Recall in articifial situations can also be accurate, despite the low arousal.
(-) There is contradicting evidence to suggest that it applies in field studies of eye-witness testimony of realistic events. (Yuille and Cutshall (1986) – the greater the arousal, the more accurate the recall)

Post-Event Information


Experiences after the event can impact the memory of the event. This is common because they often have lots of time between witnessing the event and recalling it in an interview or in a trial. For example, they may see information on the news, from other people, etc.

Reconstructive memory states that when we recall information, we mix our knowledge of what happened and our expectations of the event (Schemas built from cultural norms, for example). Therefore, we usually recall the main facts of the situation but the rest of the recall is influenced by our reconstruction.

Lots of the evidence for this comes from Loftus. It has been found that exposure to misleading post-event information leads to inaccurate recall (accuracy often falling below levels of chance (Loftus et al., 1978)).

Leading questions are a source of post-event information and can affect accuracy of recall. They can be asked at police interviews and trials. They may be unintentional or intentional, as they can be used to influence the answer and may be used by lawyers in an attempt to get a non-guilty verdict for their defendent.


(+) Loftus & Palmer (1974) – Leading questions do affect eye witness testimony.
(-) Yuille and Cutshall (1986) – Leading question do not affect eye witness testimony.

  • However, only a small sample was used, so participant variables could have had an impact.
  • Field study –> higher ecological validity.

(-) Most of the research focuses on specific facts and very little exists with open ended questions, which is a more ecologically valid way of researching this.
(-) Most of the research is lab-based and therefore lacks ecological validity. This means that it doesn’t consider stress levels whch seem to have a large impact.

Weapon Focus


If there is a weapon present during the crime, this tends to decrease the accuracy of eye-witness testimony. This could be explained in two ways:


The presence of a weapon increases the stress of the situation. This could lead to them reaching the optimum stress level for recall (Yerkes-Dodson Law). This could, however, lead to them remembering a lot about the weapon. If the weapon causes them to stress too much, it could lead them to not remember much about the situation


In most parts of the world (The notable exception being some parts of the USA), seeing a weapon is unusual. This means you will draw your attention and focus on the weapon more than the surroundings. This can lead to less accurate recall because you might not focus as much on the perpetrators’ face, for example.


(+) Loftus et al (1987) – Weapon focus occurs because it draws the witness’ attention away from other important details.
(+) Pickel (1998) – It’s the unusualness of the gun which causes the decrease in accuracy, as it makes you pay more attention to it. It’s not the threat.
(+) Pickel (2006) – With correct training, they found that it is possible to overcome weapon focus.
(-) Wagstaff et al. (2003) – The presence of a weapon had no effect on accuracy of recall.

Psychological Formulations

6.1.4 – The use of psychological formulations to understand the function of offending behaviour in the individual.

Understanding the offender


Psychological formulations are defined as a way of looking back into a person’s history of relationships, biology, social circumstances, life events and how they have interpreted all of this.
It draws upon all available psychological theories.
Any psychological treatment is based on a formulation.
Forumations are not standardised, they can vary depending on the case and who is doing them. However, the BPS have released guidelines and the HCPC approve of these guidelines.
By looking into all of the factors leading up to the event, we can better understand its cause and this can be the first step towards prevention.


(+) Especially when in diagram form, they can help reduce complex information into an easy-to-understand format. This can greatly help with the decision making of the consequence for the individual, including the danger they pose.
(+) Very useful way of explaining exactly why someone commited an offense, which can help the person understand how to prevent similar situations in the future.
(-) It can be very difficult to gain all of the relevent information about the person. It relies on them remembering lots of information and also being willing to speak about it all.
(-) A formulation can include known medical illnesses, but if the person has an unknown illness which is influencing their behaviour, it wouldn’t be included.
(-) When using psychological formulations, we run the risk of being reductionist if we focus too much on one particular aspect, such as family history. We need to make sure to be holistic and consider all factors, (+) which a psychological formulation encourages.

Ethical Interview Techniques

6.1.3 – Ethical Interview Techniques

  • Interviewer must remain neutral and not have baises.
  • You can’t ask leading questions.
  • Interrogation is no longer intimidating, it’s now supportive and works with the person to gain as much information as possible.
  • Manipulation (such as false promises to the person) is no longer used as it leads to more false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Cognitive Interview

6.1.3 – Cognitive interview and ethical interview techniques

  • Attempts to maximise the accuracy of the information, in order to reduce false convictions.
  • Based on 2 assumptions:
    • memories of events are based on multiple assumption –> multiple ways to cue a memory
    • retrieval is more effective if you reinstate the context.

Therefore, the following techniques are used in the cognitive interview:

(1) Reinstate the context at the time of the event

(2) Report everything

(3) Recall events in reverse order.

(4) Change the perspective

No leading questions are used.

This minimises the chance of the witness using schemas to fill in the gaps, increasing the accuracy.


(+) Geiselman et al (1985) – Cognitive Interview is more effective than standard interviews because it gains more information, but the information isn’t more accurate.

(-) Considering another perspective may cause speculation.

(-) More expensive than a standard interview as it needs specialist training

Valentine and Mesout (2009)

6.3.3 – Criminological Contemporary Study – Valentine and Mesout (2009)



To investigate whether high stress can reduce a person’s ability to recall information from an event and identify a perpetrator.


Opportunity sample  of 56 visitors to the London Dungeon (29 female, 27 male)

They wore a heart rate monitor throughout their visit.

When they were in the dungeon, a ‘scary person’ stepped out infront of them

Afterwards, they were told the purpose and they gained informed consent, and allowed to withdraw. They then completed a questionnaire to find out their state and trait anxiety levels. Additionally, they were asked to describe the scary person without guessing things they didn’t know.

After this, they were shown a 9-person line up and asked to identify the scary person. They were told that the scary person may or may not be in the lineup and were asked to say if they couldn’t identify the person. They also noted their confidence, as a percentage, that the person they selected was the scary person.


Valentine and Mesout found…

  • Females had a higher state anxiety in the dungeon (52.8 vs 45.3)
  • No difference in trait anxiety between males and females.
  • Those with lower state anxiety recalled more correct information about the scary person.
  • 17% of those who scored above the median state anxiety correctly idenfitied the scary person.


  • High anxiety reduces the accuracy of eyewitnesses in idenfying perpetrators.
  • Females show a higher level of anxiety in stressful situations



(-) Opportunity sample of people who visited the London Dungeon, so they’re more likely to deal with stressful situations better as they were willingly putting themselves in this situation.


(+) Good use of controls –> Same questionnaire, lineup, scary person, etc.


(+) Eyewitness testimony. Too much stress when witnessing an event means that the information is probably less accurate.


(+) Ecological validity –> Field experiment and therefore in a natural setting.

(+) Validated the questionnaire on office workers to make sure they did measure anxiety –> Higher validity.

(+) Does consider individual differences. By measuring trait anxiety aswell, the state anxiety can be compared to the trait anxiety.


(+) Made sure to get informed consent before continuing and also informed them of their right to withdraw, kept their data confidential and anonymous.

Biological Treatment for Criminality – Diet

6.1.6 – One biological treatment for criminality – Diet


This treatment is based on the assumption that minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids and blood glucose levels significantly influence human behaviour. Low levels of any of these things are thought to play a role in causing violence.


(+) Benton (1996) – Decreased blood glucose levels led to increase in irritability in Peruvian children.

  • But, he suggested that it wasn’t the only factor (provocation and social skills play a role, too).

(+) Cheap and easy to do.

(+) Gesch et al (2002)  – Disciplinary incidents dropped by 35% when taking suppliments, compared to 6.7% in placebo group.

(+) Diet treatment can be explained by the changes in hormone levels and studied scientifically


(-) little evidence actually exists.

(-) Short term solution – once out of prison, their diet can’t be modified and therefore they could return to being violent.


Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment for Criminality – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

6.1.5 – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy


CBT focuses on how our thoughts shape our behaviours and outlook on the world.

It uses this to try to change our thought processes and therefore improve our interpretation of our knowledge.

It usually involved an average of 8 sessions with a psychiatrist.


(+) Wilson et al (2005) – Meta analysis –> Reduces recidivism by up to 30%.

(+) Pearson et al (2002) –> More effective than alternatives.

(-) Does not work immediately.

(-) Requires the patient to be motivated and to be open to the psyhchiatrist.

[6.1.1-6.1.2] Explanations for Criminality

For criminological psychology, you need to be aware of the following biological and social explanations for criminality.

Biological Explanations for Criminality

Brain Injury

  • Injury to the brain can lead to personality and behaviour changes.
  • (+) Phineas Gage
  • (+) Williams et al (2010) asked 196 criminals.
    • 60% reported brain injury
    • Adults who reported brain injury also
      • Were in prison from a younger age
      • Had higher recidivism rates.
  • (-) Kreutzer et al (1991)
    • There seems to be a correlation between brain injury and criminality but not when you take out other risk factors such as substance abuse, then there is no correlation.


Emotional center of the brain, part of the limbic system.

  • (+) Pardini et al (2014)
    • People with psychopathic symptoms generally had smaller amygdalae.
    • People with smaller amygdala were 3x more likely to be aggressive.
  • (-) James Fallon
    • Is a psychologist who can identify psychopaths using brain scans fairly accurately.
    • Unknowingly identified himself as a psychopath, but he’s not one.
    • This shows that although biology plays a role, the envionment must have some influence.

Raine et al (1997)

  • Found that NGRIs had:
    • Lower activity in prefrontal cortex (associated with impulse control)
    • Lower activity in corpus callosum (2 hemispheres weren’t communicating effectively)
    • Different activity in amygdala and hippocampus than controls. (emotional and learning centres respectively).

XYY Syndrome

  • Occurs in 1/1000 births.
  • Male is born with 2 Y chromosomes.
  • Normally:
    • Grow faster and taller
    • Slightly less intelligent, but still within a normal range
    • Easily distracted.
    • Have behavioural problems.
  • (+) Theilgaard et al (1984)
    • XYY men are slightly overrepresented in prisons.
    • They have generally lower intelligence
      • She theorised that their learning difficulties caused their criminality.
  • (-) The extent of XYY in prison populations is unknown due to the resource intensive nature of collecting genetic data.

Sham Rage

Uncontrollable rage to no stimulus. It’s found in animals such as cats.

(+) Cannon & Britton (1925)

  • Ablation of the amygdala leads to lack of emotion.
  • Stimulation of the amygdala leads to sham rage.

(+) Narabayashi et al (1963)

  • Severing link between amygdala and the rest of the limbic system in humans led to lack of emotion.

(-) Much of the evidence is on animals and therefore not generalisable to humans, especially because humans can control rage with higher level thinking, unlike most animals.


Eysenck came up with a personality theory.

  • Personality is split into:
    • Extraversion/Introversion
    • Neuroticism/Stability
    • Psychoticism
  • Criminals often have the PEN type according to Eysenck.
  • Arousal Theory (Biological explanation)
    • The Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS) needs to be stimulated
    • Extraverts have little stimulation to the area, so need external stimulation.
    • Introverts have lots of stimulation to the area.
    • Psychoticism explained by low MAO and high testosterone levels.
  • (+) / (-) Farrington et al (1982)
    • P and N scores correlate with criminality, not E.
  • (+) / (-) Boduszek et al (2013)
    • E scores correlate with recidivism.


Low serotonin = Higher aggression levels

High dopamine = Higher aggression levels. (Lavine, 1997)


Higher testosterone  = Higher aggression (Albert et al (1986) castrated mice and this reduced attempts to show social dominance)


Most of these explanations don’t directly talk about crime, they talk about aggression, which doesn’t necessarily mean crime, and lots of crime isn’t even caused by aggression (Even violent crime, like hitmen). Therefore, these may be seen as explanations for aggression, and not necessarily explanations for criminality.

Social Explanations for Criminality

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy & Labelling

Labelling – Defining a person using broad terms.

Self-fulfilling prophecy – A label which causes somebody to act according to the label.

(+) Rosenthal & Jacobson (1968)

  • Labelled some children in a classroom as ‘bloomers’ (academically gifted), told the teachers and then tested them a year later.
  • Found that the ‘bloomers’ did much better on the test than the control group.
  • This was due to the teachers treating the children differently and leading to the self-fulfilling prophecy due to the bloomer label.
  • However, it used IQ tests which are criticised for not measuring intelligence completely, for example lacking in practical intelligence.

(+) Jehovah (1954)

  • Studied the Ashanti people in Ghana
  • They are named after the day of the week they’re born.
  • Monday = calm and nonaggressive
  • Wednesday = aggressive
  • Found that 22% of violent crime convictions were by people born on Wednesday, 6% by those born on Monday.
  • People born on Wednesday were treated differently as they were expected to be more violent, leading to the Self-fulfilling prophecy.

(-) However, not much research on criminality as it’s unethical.

(-) Much of the research is correlational, therefore no cause and effect can be established.

Social Learning Theory

It’s a Social-Cognitive Theory, and is a developmental explanation.

Criminality is due to seeing and modelling behaviour.

(1) Attention – Learn the crime by seeing people commit it either in real life or on TV.

(2) Retention – Remember the crime after seeing it.

(3) Reproduction – Reproducing the crime.

(4) Motivation – Motivated thanks to crime often being sensationalised on TV.

(+) Williams (1986)

  • TV introduced to isolated community
  • Measured aggression in a longitudinal study in young people.
  • Those exposed to TV were 2x as aggressive as controls.
  • (-) Williams points out that increased violence may be due to materialistic life.

(+) Bandura.

(-) Social class may be a cause of violence, not media as those in the lower classes generally watch more TV and are therefore exposed to it more, and are more likely to be criminals.

(-) SLT states that behaviour is not repeated if there is a negative consequence, but repeat offenders contracdict this.

Introduction to Psychology
Psychological Skills

Introduction to Psychology

Note: This course is for Edexcel Psychology A Level (and AS level), specification (9PS0 – taught from 2015). Also, in the A level, there are a total of 4 topics, but only two are compulsory. Everybody must study clinical psychology, but one must be chosen from the other three. This website will only cover criminological psychology – not health psychology or child psychology.

Psychology is the science of the mind, mental states, processes and behaviours.


In Psychology there isn’t a single, universally-accepted way to explain behaviours, instead, there are many approaches which explain various behaviours. No one approach is correct, and most Psychologists would agree that the true explanation for behaviours is a result of multiple approaches.

Approach Explanation Methods of Research
Social Approach Social Psychology is the study of how groups of people interact and why they do so. The key behaviours this specification covers are obedience and prejudice. Self-report (Questionairres and interviews), and to some extent experiments, observations and correlations
Cognitive Approach Cognitive Psychology explains human behaviours using mental processes, especially cognition (Our awareness and understanding). Cognitive Psychology involves memory and learning. Lab expermients and case studies
Biological Approach The explanation of behaviour due to biology, for example hormones and neurotransmission. This specification focuses on how biology affects aggression. Brain scans, correlations, twin studies
Learning Theories (Behaviourism) The explanation of behaviour as a result of how the behaviour is learnt. This specification focuses on learning phobis and aggression. Animal/Human lab experiments
Psychodynamic Approach The explanation of behaviour as a result of different parts of our personality being expressed, along with the unconcious mind. Case studies

Key Definitions

Word Definition
Theory A theory is a set of ideas which tries to explain how a behaviour or aspect of the mind works. As with any science, these theories cannot be considered as facts, but instead can become ‘accepted’ theories with supporting evidence.
Study A study is a piece of supporting evidence for a theory, this could be in the form of a lab experiment, a survey, an observation, etc.